Supporting families with disabled children

We believe that disabled children, young people and their families have a right to access the services and support they need to live a good quality of life and have the same opportunities as any other family.

Pears Foundation’s support for Contact transforms the lives of families with disabled children. Core funding helps to underpin all areas of our work, providing the flexibility to innovate, to quickly respond to families’ changing needs, and to ensure Contact is here to support families long into the future. Additionally Pears Foundation has partnered with Contact to provide targeted support to some of the most vulnerable families with disabled children. We feel very fortunate to have such an engaged, committed and forward-thinking partner in Pears Foundation.
Amanda Batten, Chief Executive

Families in the UK with a disabled child face challenges and inequality across all areas of life. Two in five disabled children in the UK live in poverty and the annual cost of bringing up a disabled child is three times higher than that of a non-disabled child. Coping with the financial and practical challenges can put an enormous strain on daily life, with families more likely to face mental health issues and isolation. These challenges were further exacerbated by the Covid-19 Pandemic.

Pears Foundation works with organisations that provide support, services and information to families and that use research and policy to make sure their voices are heard and advocate for wider social and political change. Our funding ranges from unrestricted grants, to support for pilot projects or the development of new services, to capital funding.

Many of the organisations we support were founded by parents of children with a disability or special educational need, or by dedicated professionals who saw an unmet need. We are inspired by their tenacity and dedication to using their experiences and learning to improve the lives of others.

Advice, support and information

Contact was founded in the 1970s by families of disabled children to address the lack of services and support available. It provides information and support to families, regardless of their child’s condition, as well as policy and campaigning work to tackle the inequalities that they face.

Our relationship with Contact began over a decade ago. We have provided unrestricted funding as well as funding for a pilot project to help families access the full benefits to which they are entitled. More recently we partnered with the charity through our DCMS Community Match Challenge fund, enabling Contact to support their network of local parent-carer fora and rare conditions groups. These groups are a lifeline to families but have limited funding. As a result of the pandemic many found themselves in danger of closing or unable to offer the services they once did. Our match funding enabled Contact to channel money out to individual groups so that they could continue to support families. We are continuing to support the rare conditions groups and help build their capacity and resilience.

Partner since: 2011
Funding invested: £2.8million


We also fund IPSEA (Independent Provider of Special Education Advice). Originally founded by a group of special educational needs professionals, IPSEA is now the leading organisation providing independent legally based advice and support for the families of children with special educational needs and/or a disability (SEND). Its mission is to help these children get the appropriate education, training and support to which they are legally entitled.  Services include a helpline and casework volunteers who are trained to support parents through the Tribunal process.

Partner since: 2020
Funding invested: £150,000


When their needs are not met, some children with severe learning disabilities may display what is known as ‘challenging behaviours’. These can include hurting others, self-injury or destructive behaviours and they have a significant impact, not only on the child but also for their family, friends and carers. Founded by a parent of a child with severe learning disabilities, The Challenging Behaviour Foundation provides information, support and training for parents and family carers and uses their stories and experience to advocate for strategic change. We started to fund the CBF during the Covid-19 pandemic when lockdowns and withdrawal of services exacerbated challenging behaviours for so many families.

Partner since: 2021
Funding invested: £100,000


We also fund Sibs, which supports people who grow up with or have grown up with a disabled brother or sister. They provide an online information service for young siblings and support them into adulthood with peer support groups, advice and information.

Partner since: 2019
Funding invested: £125,000


Services and activities

Sense is a national charity that supports people of all ages who are deafblind or living with complex disabilities.

In 2015 we funded TouchBase Pears, a community resource in Selly Oak, Birmingham, that combines health and social care services with arts, sports and wellbeing activities and supports disabled people to access employment, education, volunteering and training opportunities. Our funding has also helped create a sensory garden at TouchBase Barnet in north London and develop the services at Sense College Loughborough.

We have also supported Sense’s digital arts and wellbeing offer and, through the Pears DCMS Volunteering Futures Fund, helped scale up the charity’s Virtual Buddying programme which matches disabled young people with like-minded volunteers.

Partner since: 2015
Funding invested: £2.2million


Mencap is a national disability charity that supports people with a learning disability. In addition to pass-through funding for several of Mencap’s more than 300 local groups that provide activities for young people and adults, we fund an early intervention project in Newham. The aim of the project was to improve outcomes for children with a learning disability through earlier diagnosis, evidence-based interventions and working with existing agencies to coordinate family support.

Mencap was one of the funding partners for both the Pears DCMS Community Match Challenge and the Pears DCMS Volunteering Futures fund. This funding has helped the organisation to build digital capability in the network of local community organisations across England and develop inclusive volunteering opportunities.

Partner since: 2013
Funding invested: £2.3million


We also give unrestricted funding to Bag Books, a small charity that develops communication skills in children and adults with the most severe learning disabilities through multi-sensory storytelling sessions, storytelling kits, workshops and training.

Partner since: 2012
Funding invested: £185,000



The Covid-19 pandemic had a disproportionate and devastating effect on families with disabled children. Vital support services like therapies, health appointments and respite care were delayed or withdrawn resulting in a huge and detrimental impact on children’s physical and psychological development and both their and their parents’ mental health. The Disabled Children’s Partnership is a coalition of over 100 organisations that campaigns for a fairer system of support for disabled children and families. Our funding has enabled the DCP create a Learning Hub to develop the evidence base to understand the impact of the pandemic of disabled children and their families and how the third sector responded to it.

Partner since: 2020
Funding invested: £560,234


Financial disadvantage

Whilst we recognise the need for broader social and systemic change to tackle inequality, we know that there are families in need right now. The Family Fund is the UK’s largest charity providing grants for low-income families raising disabled or seriously ill children and young people to help to break down the barriers families face, improve their quality of life and ease the additional daily pressures. In 2021 the Fund provided over 150,000 grants or services worth over £48 million to families across the UK to help them buy things such as washing machines, sensory toys, family breaks, bedding, tablets, furniture, outdoor play equipment, clothing and computers.

Most of the Family Fund’s grants are for families raising a disabled or seriously ill child or young person aged 17 or under. Our support helps extend this by funding direct grants for disabled and seriously ill young people aged 18-24 years old who are living at home.

Partner since: 2021
Funding invested: £1.3million

We also support the Turn2us Response Fund which makes grants to people dealing with life changing events such as bereavement, ill health, relationship breakdown and domestic abuse. Turn2us partners with established frontline charities on this grants programme which aims to prevent a financial shock becoming a financial crisis.

Partner since: 2022
Funding invested: £450,000